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How 174 Year Old Pearson Is Developing The Netflix Of Education

8/20/2018

By Peter High. Published on Forbes

Albert Hitchcock joined 174 year old Pearson as Chief Information Officer in early 2014, the company was already in the throes of a major transformation. It had moved its emphasis from publishing to education, and would announce a dedication to the latter the following year.

Hitchcock facilitated this change through a three-phased transformation, which includes radical simplification, platform strategy, and execution strategy. The radical simplification has included the consolidation of systems, moving from data centers to the cloud, and people and culture changes.

Now, under Hitchcock’s leadership, the company is moving toward a single platform, similar to Netflix for education, which will be highly scalable, global in nature, high-quality, and one that can deliver all of their experiences around the world to millions of learners.

Along the way, Hitchcock’s role has aggrandized, as he has moved from CIO to Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer of the company. Now his purview includes IT and digital transformation, but also product development, procurement, supply chain, customer service, and real estate.

To listen to this interview in podcast form, please visit this link.

Peter High: You are the Chief Operating and Technology Officer at Pearson. You took on these responsibilities in 2016 after two years as the company’s Chief Information Officer. Could you talk about your current purview? Additionally, could you explain why you changed roles and the differences between the responsibilities the roles entail?

Albert Hitchcock: I have been with Pearson for just over four years, having previously joined from Vodafone Group where I was the Group Chief Information Officer for seven years. When I joined Pearson, I was especially interested in the mission of the company and the agenda it had to transform education through the digital medium. I joined the company as the CIO and took on the responsibility to look into how we transform the company into a digital enterprise. One of my first roles was to look across the business and see how the company was operating. This entailed searching for ways we could implement technology to both streamline the way the company ran and how we served our customers. What became clear quickly was the need to radically simplify not only the underlying technology but furthermore, the way the company ran all of its operational processes. Moreover, it became clear how we delivered a competitive digital experience to our consumers and our institutional customers.

Through that process, one of the things that became evident was that large chunks of the company, if not the entire company, needed to go through a radical change. I was asked to take on additional responsibilities through that, in terms of taking on the digital product development. This was because it became clear that the enterprise IT and the way we were developing digital products needed to be closely aligned. Previously in the business, these two were separate and were almost competing for technology functions. It was a belief on my part that we needed to have an underlying design, digital architecture, and a way of working that was compatible across both enterprise IT and product development. That group was one of the first groups to come in addition to my existing CIO role.

Approximately a year later, one of the things we embarked upon through this process was a common ERP system, a common CRM, common operations processes, and common data such as customer data, product data, and vendor data. At the time, we did not have a single operations function across the company. Operations tended to be embedded in our regional organizations and other functions around the business. It became clear that in order to drive the process of alignment, commonality in ways of working, and the drive to a common data model, we needed to bring those functions together. I offered to take on the operations responsibilities such as procurement, supply chain, customer service, and even real estate. This was in an effort to drive a common model around the globe for operations. Furthermore, I have subsequently added in additional shared services. These functions coming together has allowed us to rapidly drive a more cohesive change across the business.

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